By GERARDO RECINOS
When Northgate hosted Alhambra in December in the fourth game of the season, the Broncos needed a pair of stunning goals to beat the Bulldogs.
This time around the Broncos’ goals were far from pretty. Northgate beat Alhambra 2-0 on Wednesday night with a pair of tap-in goals, and while they weren’t as easy on the eyes the result is a berth into a North Coast Section championship game.
What can be more pretty than that?
On the night of the Feb. 22 loss the Broncos were comprehensively the better team, and they cemented that right very early on in the match.
They settled into play from the first kick and stopped the Bulldogs from wanting to play their soccer. The Broncos were a force on the ball, and while the energetic Bulldogs were up to the task of having to chase the ball, it wasn’t something they could do forever.
After a flicked header from Sarah Emigh was saved in the sixth minute of play, there was hardly a sniff on goal from the Bulldogs for nearly 25 minutes.
All the while the Broncos were forcing Alhambra’s wingers to track back and help out. Northgate’s wingers bombed down the touch lines and did well to stretch the field and force the Bulldogs to chase even more than before.
Any shot on goal from the Bulldogs would have to come against the run of play, and it nearly did.
In the 25th minute Carly Agostino created a chance from nothing, but her lofted shot didn’t get down quickly enough, and clipped to top side of the cross bar. Other than Nicki Rucki’s free kick from about 30 yards out being caught easily by Northgate’s Mikayla Ducey, the Bulldogs couldn’t test the net-minder.
Even so, Alhambra looked organized enough. That and Nicki Rucki’s brilliant run of form in the playoffs made things look promising.
Northgate struck on a lucky bounce just before half time, wiping away what could’ve otherwise been a resilient half of play.
Rucki was beaten after a shot rebounded off the post went right into the path of the opportunistic Bronco attacker, who gratefully finished it up.
Still, a goal down mean hardly anything. The Bulldogs came out in the second half and again it was their attacking midfielder who created a chance.
This time Agostino worked hard to nick a throw in off the Northgate defender. The junior put the ball on her favored right foot, and fired a low shot just outside the keeper’s far post. Ducey was beaten by the effort, however it went just wide of the mark.
Struggling to build from open play, the Bulldogs nearly got there equalizer from a set piece. Lindsey Alford’s corner met the head of her fellow captain, Emigh. The senior’s headed effort was parred at the far post, nearly pushed over the line by a run from sophomore .
However, Cox arrived a second too late, and was judged to have fouled the keeper in the action.
The Bulldogs slumped their heads a bit after the near goal, and were punished.
It took until the 78th minute for the Broncos to get their second, but when they did they were sure they would be through to the next round.
Again, the goal wasn’t pretty. After having made a pair of double saves earlier in the game, Rucki’s final save was bundled home agonizingly despite her best efforts.
The senior keeper perhaps best kept the match in such a position of hope, and was unfairly beaten to truly seal the deal.
When the final whistle rang, most of the players on the pitch found a senior to console, knowing that this last effort was their best at claiming the ring they so badly wanted.